Pace of life

12:52 PM

While we were in Lucknow, we took a very much needed time out from Mumbai's fast pace life. A respite from the heavy traffic, noise, pollution, and constant need to rush from one place to another. Live in any metro in India, and then go to a smaller city and you are sure to notice a difference instantly.
For us it never fails, we end up sleeping a lot the first few days, and then realise how much more sedate life is in DH's native place. The irony being that even DH who grew up in this city admitted he could no longer live there without feeling a bit bored. He has been away too long and metro living has changed him.
Don't get me wrong, we love to come to Lucknow for a visit, but living there would be an entirely ball game. not only is it moving at a slower pace than we are used to, it is also far more a traditional and conservative place. And the few years we spent in Mumbai has altered us even more than all the ones we spent in Bangalore.

Mumbai, the financial capital of India, the Island city, Maximum City, the city that never sleeps. The city that will change you, and demand you give it your 200%. A city that while having many communities coexisting and bring to the cultural heritage only truly knows one "religion": hard work. Mumbaikars are usually no frills, no nonsense, casual, down to the point necessity. Coming from the fastest paced city in the country it is clear we are now a different breed all together. One that welcomes a breather, but will find it unsettling fast enough to want to go back to our mad rush faced paced routine and we never even really saw it coming.

While in Lucknow, we still took pleasure in many things. Ishita and I have a favourite spot in my in-laws house :

homes in Lucknow still have green spaces

The garden. My in-laws like many in Lucknow have a nicely sized house that comes with a nice little garden in the front. A thing we already didn't see commonly in Bangalore and is a sheer rarity in Mumbai. I myself like heading to that garden after grabbing a cup of tea from the kitchen in the morning and soak up the early morning sun rays. I did the same thing for years in Bangalore on our terrace, and still find myself heading to our balcony here in Mumbai. Ishita being as outdoorsy as I am. She likes the garden as a substitute for the park visit daily in our neighbourhood back home and the tree she likes the most in her grand parents house is this one :

indian lemons look like lime

A lemon tree that has been there for many years and bears a lot of fruits. She can't resist plucking a few to smell them whenever we go. Despite her not even really liking lemonades or anything with lemons in it. The fruit fascinate her, ask long as she doesn't have to eat it. And her going after these lemons bring back memories of my going to the vegetable garden at my own grand ma's house to pluck ripe cherry tomatoes, or my eagerly waiting for her big cherry tree to bear ripe cherries.
Interestingly, I grew up in Geneva, while my parents came from a small town about 40 kilometres away from it. Geneva while nowhere nearly as faced paced as Mumbai is. It is still the 3rd Largest city in my home country, and has a definite big city feel. Both my parents both said they could no longer live in their home town, the way DH says it about Lucknow. But like DH or me, they still find pleasure in visiting once in a while and that tiny small town by the lake still has its charm regardless.

How interesting it is that cities get to change us as much as we change them in the long run.

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  1. Anonymous1:13 PM

    I know these old houses with gardens and fruits. Not only the pace of life but the cost of living is also less in small towns. You eat and digest but as soon as you come to the city you suffer from allegies and stomach problems. There is something in the water of this towns which is still unadulterated. Speaking about fruits, have you eaten the famous Malihabadi mangoes of U.P. There is an entire districts in UP which is famous for its mango orchards.

    Since you have ties to Lucknow the centre of urdu language, let us see if you can understand the meaning of the meaning of this beautiful couplet written by the great poet Iqbal. This was written about the spirit of India.

    Yunan-o-Misr-o-Roma Sab Mit Gaye Jahan Se, Ab Tak Magar Hai Baki Naam-o-Nishan Hamara, Kuchh Baat Hai Ke Hasti Mit’ti Nahin Hamari, Sadiyon Raha Hai Dushman Daur-e-Zaman Hamara.


    1. My in-laws ship us some of these mangoes to Mumbai when they are in season :-)
      I have no knowledge of Urdu, just enough hindi to get by :-)

    2. Anonymous9:33 AM

      Oh, let me indulge in some Indian chest thumping. I will give you the meaning of the urdu couplet.

      "While the great civilizations of Greece, Egypt and Rome were swept away from the world, we (the Indian civilization) continue to sustain. There is a certain something in us which defies extinction despite repeated invasions down the centuries"

      This was written by Alama Iqbal, who also wrote the "Sare Jahen Se Accha Hindustan Hamera", our national anthem. The couplet celebrates the continues and composite culture of India which includes all religions, castes and creed.


  2. Anonymous6:34 PM

    Wow. Nice garden. Your in laws are rather well off. I rarely get to see a house with a garden in India. Surprisingly in my neighbourhood there is only a single house with a garden like that. Lawn grass and all that. The colony we live is quite posh by Indian standards but no one has a garden. The only plants are some in the courtyard and the only space people have left is to park their cars in front which they wash every freaking day.What's funny is almost no space between two huge mansions. We open the bedroom window and we can see our neighbours standing in their space barely 4 feet away from us.

    1. Where in Idnia are you? Lucknow still has a lot of houses with gardens, they aren't big, but they are there, very often in front of the house, even if it is a 2 meter wide strip, it is still there. You don't find these garden much in Bangalore and they are really unknown of in Mumbai. Real estate prices in Lucknow are cheap still, and my in laws bought this plot and built their house when my husband was little, that must have been around 30 years ago. He told me that when he was a child, there was almost nothing in the neighbourhood and half of the houses there are today didn't exist, he had a lot of fields to play in as a kid.

    2. Anonymous9:26 AM

      You can often see such big houses in Allahabad, Patna and smaller towns where apartment culture has not reached. There are still big sprawling houses with colonial architecture right besides a modern mall in these towns. These are being pulled down and apartments blocks are being made. Still people in these towns prefer to live in houses rather than apartments. There is also something else, these neighborhoods have hell of a lot of doctors, lawyers and every second house belongs to a member of legislative assembly. In small towns these are the only three occupations that people follow. There is a strange fascination for lawyers "Pata hai, wo kachari (court) me kaam karte hai", they will say. The cost of living is less and travelling is not hectic, so you can live peacefully.

      There is still lot of respect given to doctors and lawyers. Basically, generations of doctors, lawyers, landlords living in a particular area. I have seen it in Allahabad and Patna and I guess it will be the same in Lucknow. I have heard that Gomti Nagar in Lucknow is packed with politicians and bureaucrats and has one the highest real estate prices in India.

      In Delhi, there is colony called Chittraranjan Park which was set up to rehabilitate the Bangladeshi refugees who came to Delhi after the Bangladesh War in 1971. It is called mini Kolkata and they have fantastic Durga Poojas. When I visited my aunt in mid 1980s, there were lot of vacant plots. Now, it is chock-a-block with properties worth crores. All cities in India passed through the same phase I guess.


    3. True, tier 2 cities in India still have the luxury of space, and you will find big houses and plots a lot. In My in-laws family there were only two acceptable professions : Doctors or Engineers. Engineers in my FIL's day we're all working for the Governement which back then was still a revered position to have. DH was told from early on that engineering was the thing to go for. He no longer work in that field and hasn't for a long time, but that is what he studied.

      One funny thing was that on our way back to Mumbai, there was a billboard inside Lucknow's airport terminal that advertised apartments for sale, 3BHK at 30 lakhs onward. This seemed totally surreal to us, in Mumbai you don't get anything for that price, you have to go as far as Navi Mumbai and it might buy you a tiny 1BHK if you are lucky. In South Mumbai no mere mortal can even afford a tiny shed, I even read that rental in slums is sky rocketing. In the suburbs, you won't find anything decent below 1.5 crores and it is usually for a 2BHK of a carpet area of barely 1000 sq ft. Mumbai is not surprisingly the city with the most unsold units, we reached a point where nobody can really afford to buy a flat, because other things like schools fees end up costing a bomb, and don't get me started on the price of vegetables. As I told DH this is a situation that is not sustainable in the long run and the real estate market in the city is bound to collapse at one point or another. We are not planning to buy anything in this city, and I have many friends making the same choice. Because it is or pay for your house loan EMI or save for retirement. Not both, and what good is a flat all paid for by the time you retire if you have no money left to eat or pay your utility bills?

    4. Anonymous3:16 PM

      It is the same in Delhi. At 30 lakhs you will get something in Greater Noida perhaps not in Delhi. The colony which I live, is supposed to be the biggest colony in Asia with a capacity of 10 lakh people. It is not even half filled. Ten years ago when we move in, 2BHK was 11 lakh and 3BHK was 12-15 lakhs. After the coming of the metro, it is now a few crores for a humble dwelling. Those flats which are well furnished, god knows how much they cost.

      My father was a member of cooperative group housing society. He wanted to go back to bengal and live in his native village, caching fish from the village pond. We never visited our ancestral village. My mother told him to buy something in Delhi and forget the village thing. He became a member of society with few of his government office colleagues. We got our house some twenty years after the housing society was formed. We thought it would never happen. Father used to get all worried thinking about how to get the money every time the demand was made. I remember when we were invited for the draw of lots of our housing society. We thought we will see half completed structures. We were pleasantly surprised to see flats. Oh boy, what a feeling to see you own house. Unfortunately, my father did not live long enough to enjoy the fruits of his labour. I cannot buy a property for myself in this life with the prices. I know how it was for my father in those days.

      He got his daughter married, pushed me around to get a decent job, got a house build. I guess he checked all the right boxes. Perfect Indian father I guess. Fathers are strange creatures, you can never quiet understand them. You value your parents more when they are no more.

      I can imagine the rent of your house in Mumbai would be costing you a bomb and school fees the less said the better. The only option for middle class people is to become a member of a cooperative group housing society or apply for flats in Delhi Development Authority. Somewhat better situation than private builders. The Government has stopped pension from 2005 onwards for its employees. The new recruits won't get any pension. Now, retirement is difficult both for private and government employees. However, Government pensioners do have Central Govt. Health Facilities, which is such a big mercy.


    5. Yep, rental cost a bomb, but in the end, it is still cheaper to rent, than the EMI on a flat, by far. Right now we put the money we are saving not paying an EMI into various long term investments that will provide us an income in our old days. DH is now convinced like I am that it is better to wait and see with the real estate market. I still think it is not going to take too many years before it collapse, DH is not yet fully convinced, but the number of unsold units in all metros is starting to make him think that I was right saying it will come crashing down one day, especially with the economy being what it is today.

    6. Anonymous9:53 AM

      The argument of EMI Vs Rent is a "Chicken and Egg dilemma". I do believe that there is no good time to invest in property. By the time you make up your mind, the prices go up again. No offence meant, allow me to make a humble suggestion. You can invest in a property in Lucknow where the property prices are low. You will get a decent size plot there. May be you can put it on rent. Lucknow being the capital, the prices are going to rise soon. You can sell it in future to get some property in another city. That is what people do, they get a property where it is affordable and sell it at an opportune time or use the rent to pay to part finance the EMIs. One gentleman I knew sold his property in Lucknow buy a flat in Gurgaon. This way you get a foothold somewhere. Even the real estate market cools down in Mumbai, it will be un-affordable for some time to come.

      Your expenses are not going to go down in future. Rather it will rise. You will have to pay for the higher education of your daughter/marriage/medical emergencies. They all come roughly at the same time. At least, you will have an assurance of having a house somewhere in India.


    7. We are looking into that option :-) and the family already has a plot in Lucknow. I was the one suggesting to DH to invest in another city, or even get a vacation home somewhere, these areas are bound to develop themselves and be very urbanised by the time we retire. He is warming up to my logic slowly :-)

  3. I would die without my vegetable, fruit & flower gardens here in Nepal.
    I spend a good 2-3 hours in them daily.

    1. I don't have much of a green thumb, but I would love to have a vegetable garden, we attempted to grow tomatoes on our terrace in Bangalore, but it was receiving way too much sun being exposed South. Even my regular plants and flowers would die regularly. Vegetable gardens are common in Switzerland, I think that during WW2 the Governement urged citizens who had a plot to grow stuff on it in an effort to help with the ration system the country was under. The trend is dying with my generation, but all the people belonging to my grand ma's generation have one if they have a house. They grew up with ration coupons and the threat of war around them, they simply kept what turns out to be a very good habit. During spring and Summer my grand ma is almost self sufficient thanks to her garden.


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